Things to Do on a Budget in Monmouth & Ocean Counties this March 2015

family-baking-300x200Hang in there! Spring is almost here and we’re just as excited as you are to be able to finally get outside and break free of hibernation. As always, we’ve come up with a list of free or inexpensive activities that you and your family and friends can enjoy in a town near you.

St. Patrick’s Day Parades:

Wednesday, March 4: This is your chance to see if a pottery class is right for you! Bring your friends or family members to the Pottery Open House at the Thompson Park Creative Arts Center (Lincroft) where you will sample some hand building techniques and try your luck at the potter’s wheel. This free event will take place from 4pm-8pm and is open to ages 7 and up, those under 18 must be accompanied by an adult. For more information, call 732-842-4000.

Saturday, March 7: Let it go with Elsa, Anna, Olaf and more at the Count Basie Theatre (Red Bank) with the Sing-Along Version of Frozen! Anna, a fearless optimist, sets off on an epic journey – teaming up with rugged mountain man Kristoff and his loyal reindeer Sven – to find her sister Elsa, whose icy powers have trapped the kingdom of Arendelle in eternal winter. Get your tickets today – showtimes at 11am, 2:30pm and 5pm. For more information, call 732-842-9000.

Sunday, March 8: Head on down to the Bradley Beach Library for the 10th Annual Art Exhibit and Wine Tasting Event! You can see beautiful artwork, sample wines and treats, enjoy music from the Festive Flutes and chat with your neighbors from 2pm-4pm. For more information, call 732-869-1020.

Enjoy the tastes of the shore at the 7th Annual Belmar Restaurant Tour! The event will take place from noon to 4:30pm – tickets can be purchased in advance for just $30.00 at Brandl, Mr. Shrimp & 10th Ave. Burrito. Tickets will be $35.00 the day of event at Brandl located at 703 Belmar Plaza. Click the link above for the full list of participating restaurants. For more information, call 732-681-3700.

It’s Daylight Savings Time on Sunday, March 8 – don’t forget to turn those clocks ahead at 2:00am!

Friday, March 13: Celebrate the luck of the Irish at The Nerd’s St. Patrick’s Day Party presented by NJ 101.5! The event will be held at iPlay America (Freehold) and is open to those 21 and older only. Tickets start at just $10 and you’ll enjoy contests, prizes and so much more! For more information, call 732-577-8200.

Wednesday, March 18-Thursday, March 19: It’s Irish Week at the Flavor of Freehold Event! Come out and experience some of Downtown Freehold’s most loved restaurants and shops. The event will take place from 5:30pm-8pm and tickets are just $10.00 per person (cash only). For more information, call 732-333-0094.

Sunday, March 22: Make Red Bank your ultimate destination for all things wedding at the 2015 Red Bank Wedding Walk. Find your photographer, choose your ring, smell your roses, get fitted for your dress and enjoy a tasting at one of their award winning venues. The one-day event is a free and introduces brides, grooms, partners, wedding attendants and their families to Red Bank as the one-stop shopping destination for weddings. Several grand prize packages will be raffled at the conclusion of the Wedding Walk. For more information, call 732-842-4244.

Head on over to Bradley Beach, for their 2015 Restaurant Tour! Enjoy delicious tastings from restaurants all over town from 11am-3pm presented by the Bradley Beach Chamber of Commerce and the Borough of Bradley Beach. Tickets are being sold at Borough Hall, D’Arcy’s, and The Ground Round. For more information, call 732-776-2999.

Sunday, March 29: Enjoy rides and fun while you hunt for Easter eggs at the Keansburg Amusement Park’s Annual Easter Egg Hunt! The event is rain or shine at will take place at 1pm. For more information, call 732-495-1400.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day and Happy Spring! 

You Could Win a $100 Visa Gift Card in Our Custom Picture Card Photo Contest!


Share your favorite photo with us! Post your photo on our Facebook page or on Instagram tagging us @firstfinancialnj using #MyFFCustomCard before 11:59pm on 3/13 to be entered into the contest.

Click here to learn more about the features of our Custom Picture Card. If you have any questions, give us a call at 866.750.0100 or email

*To be entered, follow First Financial on Facebook and Instagram. Participants can post a photo on our Facebook page or post a photo on your Instagram then tag @firstfinancialnj using #MyFFCustomCard using the photo that you would like to add to a Custom Picture Card on or before 3/13/15 at 11:59pm. Three (3) photos will be chosen at random to be voted on by all Facebook and Instagram followers until 3/27/15. The photo with the most likes will win and will be notified by the Marketing Department on 3/30/15. Winner will be able to pick up their $100 Visa gift card and eligible to create a free Custom Picture Card and must be picked up in a First Financial branch. All other contest participants are eligible to receive a Custom Picture Card at the discounted price of $3 and also must be picked up in a First Financial branch. If a full relationship Checking Account is opened, you will also be eligible for our Member Incentive plus a free gift. No purchase necessary to enter or claim prize. You must be 18 years or old to enter. One entry per person. See credit union for details.

Learn How to “Get out of debt, manage your credit, & stop paying more than you have to!” at this FREE Seminar in March 2015

246657_bigAre you interested in improving your credit score, paying down debt, and saving money in order to get your finances on track? If so, allow the experts at First Financial to provide you with insightful information to help you manage your credit & debt in this free seminar.

Attending this seminar, you will learn:

  • What affects your credit score
  • What makes up your credit score and how to improve it
  • How to budget and cut spending
  • How to promptly pay off debt

This FREE “Get out of debt, manage your credit, & stop paying more than you have to!” Seminar will begin at 6:00pm on Thursday, March 19th at First Financial’s Neptune Branch. The seminar will teach attendees ways to keep their credit score where it should be in just a few simple steps. The seminar is located at 783 Wayside Road (Off Route 66) in Neptune. Register today, space is limited. 

Register Now!

3 Reasons Your Tax Refund Might Not Be As Big As You’re Expecting

09ba4dd1-bbe3-4f1f-9400-940dc6df347fEveryone tells you not to plan on having a tax refund. If you’re living paycheck-to-paycheck, though, you know where every dollar is going. You might be counting on that money to give you the breathing space you need.

Even if you’re a little further ahead than that, you may still have made plans for your tax refund. You might be planning to pay off a credit card from the holidays or hoping to put a down payment on a car. You might just be hoping to take a little vacation over spring break!

Whatever your plans for the money, it’s a good idea to temper your expectations. Unfortunately, you can’t count on the same tax refund you got last year. Here’s why.

1. Student loan garnishments. 

If you’re behind on your student loans, you might not see much of your refund. If you don’t have much of an income, it’s easy to get behind and it’s hard to catch up. Student loan companies know that, for people with minimal income, tax refunds are a source of a big chunk of money. Also, since it’s not a regular source of income, the rules regarding garnishment are more lenient. Ordinarily, creditors are only allowed to take 15% of your discretionary income if you have one loan, or 25% if you have multiple loans. For a tax refund, the Department of Education can instruct the IRS to apply the full amount of any tax refund you’re due to the balance of your loan.

Even if you’re paid off in full, it might be wise to check with your spouse. This process can also apply to your refund for his or her defaulted student loans. As far as the IRS is concerned, you’re one taxpayer with one set of obligations.

This process can apply to federal student loans, federally subsidized loans and some private loans. You’ll receive a notice of proposed offset from the IRS. You have 65 days from receipt of the notice to object to the offset. Deferments can be provided for up to 3 years for economic hardship and unemployment. They may be provided indefinitely for individuals seeking an advanced degree or for people with disabilities.

It’s also possible the “loan” may just be a paperwork error. If you’ve unenrolled from classes but haven’t yet received a repayment from the school, for instance, you might get your refund back with a short letter. The notice of referral will provide you instructions to request a review.

2. You made more money.

Usually, getting a raise is something to celebrate. If you got one this year, that’s good news for your career future. It’s less good news for your refund. The refund is the difference between what you paid in taxes and what you ended up owing. Your taxes are withheld from your paychecks assuming they stay the same all year. If you got a raise in June, then you were effectively under-withholding for the first half of the year.

Beyond the difference in payment, you may find your raise puts you just above the threshold for credit programs. Credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) have income eligibility requirements. If you made more money this year than you did last year, you may not qualify. The same is true for subsidized insurance premiums through the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). If your income changed after you obtained coverage, you may have to hand back a part of that subsidy.

The EITC is fairly significant, particularly if you have kids. It may be worth your time to look for other deductions you can take to get your gross income under the threshold. Consider working with a professional tax preparer, too.

3. You were the victim of identity theft.

The past few years have seen an increase in tax returns filed fraudulently on behalf of victims of identity theft. A crook uses your Social Security Number and fabricates financial information to get a hefty tax refund, then cashes the check. You’re not only out your tax refund, but also may be facing criminal charges for the phony info on “your” return.

With cuts to the IRS budget this year, its enforcement and investigation of these crimes has dropped. You should contact the IRS immediately if you receive notice that more than one tax return was filed using your Social Security number or if you are issued a W-2 (an income statement report from your employer) by an employer you don’t recognize. These are red flags that someone is fraudulently using your identity.

The FTC recommends you contact the IRS’s Specialized Protection Unit at 1-800-908-4490. You should also prepare proof of your identity, like a copy of your drivers’ license, Social Security card, or passport. The IRS has a form, IRS ID Theft Affidavit Form 14039, that will start the investigative process. Recovering from this crime will take time, but you will get the refund you’re due.

To prevent identity theft, check out First Financial’s ID Theft Protection products – with our Fully Managed Identity Recovery services, you don’t need to worry. A professional Recovery Advocate will do the work on your behalf, based on a plan that you approve. Should you experience an Identity Theft incident, your Recovery Advocate will stick with you all along the way – and will be there for you until your good name is restored and you can try it FREE for 90 days!* To learn more about our ID Theft Protection products, click here and enroll today!**

TurboTax has some great offers for the 2014-2015 tax season! Click here to get started and save with First Financial’s TurboTax microsite. From now until 2/26/15, TurboTax users are automatically entered into this year’s $25,000 Giveaway when they file between the sweepstakes dates and provide a valid email address. One grand prize winner will win $15,000 and ten first prize winners will receive $1,000 each! This is a nationwide sweepstakes.***

*Available for new enrollments only. After the free trial of 90 days, the member must contact the Credit Union to opt-out of ID Theft Protection or the monthly fee of $4.95 will automatically be deducted out of the base savings account or $8.95 will be deducted out of the First Protection Checking account (depending upon the coverage option selected), on a monthly basis or until the member opts out of the program. **Identity Theft insurance underwritten by subsidiaries or affiliates of Chartis Inc. The description herein is a summary and intended for informational purposes only and does not include all terms, conditions and exclusions of the policies described. Please refer to the actual policies for terms, conditions, and exclusions of coverage. Coverage may not be available in all jurisdictions. ***TurboTax is a tax preparation software product offered to our members through the Love My CU Rewards Program and is not a product of this Credit Union.

Article source courtesy of

Things to Do on a Budget in Monmouth & Ocean Counties this February 2015

family-winterEven though it’s winter, it’s time to make your way out of hibernation and have some fun even if there is snow on the ground. It’s the month to celebrate “love,” so grab your loved ones and enjoy some quality time with one another. Check out these free and/or inexpensive activities happening right here in Monmouth and Ocean Counties.

Tuesday, February 3: Get your finances in order for the new year with our FREE I Bought What?? How to Not Be Afraid When You Open Your Bills and Stick to a Budget,” seminar presented by the experts at First Financial. The seminar will begin at 6pm at First Financial’s Toms River branch – reserve your seat today.

Thursday, February 5: As a business owner, are you looking to understand that despite the explosion of technology, offerings, and competition in the marketplace, you still need to be able to set yourself apart? Look no further – join First Financial for a FREE business seminar, Building Your Business Dreams: Important Financial Planning & Budgeting Basics presented by Jack Gottlieb, President of The Total Solutions Group, LLC. The event will be held at 8:30am at First Finanical’s Wall Office. Register today – space and time is limited.

Sunday, February 8: Looking to plan a vacation in the near future? Head on down to the Vacation Expo at Sickles Market (Little Silver) from 11am-3pm. Sickles Market and Excel Travel have joined together again to host the 2nd Annual Monmouth County Vacation Expo! Held in Sickles’ beautiful greenhouse, the Expo brings to you a range of trusted travel operators under one roof – cruise lines, exotic destinations, yacht charters, adventure holidays, and so much more. For more information, call 732-741-9563.

Saturday, February 14: Plan a romantic evening out with your loved one with vocalist, Chris Pinnella - returning to the Algonquin Theatre (Manasquan) for his most romantic concert to date! Featuring brand new arrangements of some of the most beautiful songs of all time including “When I Fall In Love,” “Hallelujah,” “Cinema Paradiso,” “For Once In My Life,” and more. Join Chris and his 12-piece orchestra of brilliant musicians as he sings songs of love, romance, and being inspired. For more information, call 732-528-9211.

Monday, February 16 – Thursday, February 26: Mark your calendars! February is the time to fine-dine in Red Bank. You don’t want to miss Red Bank Restaurant Week (excludes Friday & Saturday) for $30 prix fixe dining at over 30 of their outstanding restaurants, including many brand new restaurants. Menus include appetizer, entree and dessert. Click the link above to view participating restaurants – please note the post prix fixe menus will be posted closer to the event. For more information, call 732-842-4244.

Thursday, February 19: There are a lot of uncertainties that arise when it comes to buying, selling, or renovating a home. If you’re looking to gain insight on the best way to move forward with your home buying/selling process, we invite you attend First Financial’s FREE It’s a Buyer’s Market! The Key to Getting Your Keys & Close on Your New Home Without the Walls Closing InSeminar, presented by the experts at First Financial as well as Tina Pilot, Realtor-Associate for Re/Max. Space and time is limited – register today!

Sunday, February 22: Do you have a pallet for flavorful chili? Come eat the heat and sample delicious chili at the 3rd Annual Highlands Chili Cook Off at Windansea! The event takes place from 3pm-7pm and tickets include snacks, chili tasting, refreshments and two voting ballots. Two contests will be held: the “Professional” Cook Off at 4pm and the “Ameteur” Cook Off at 5pm. For tickets and more information, call 732-291-4713.

Happy Valentine’s Day!